Legislature dispenses much-needed pot rules

It came down to the eleventh hour, but the Colorado House of Representatives late Tuesday night approved the Senate version of a bill to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries that have appeared rapidly in cities like Grand Junction over the past year.

If Gov. Bill Ritter signs it — and we urge him to do so — dispensaries will have to pay $1,800 a year to operate. The owners and their employees will have to undergo criminal background checks, and those with convictions on drug-related charges won’t be allowed to participate in the business.

Additionally, the dispensaries will be required to grow their own medical marijuana and create secure areas where only those with approved medical marijuana cards may go to purchase marijuana or cannabis products.

The law would prohibit the use of marijuana on a dispensary’s premises, and it would require that all edible marijuana products are produced in state-certified kitchens.

The legislation also leaves open the possibility that the state and local government can collect sales taxes on the sale of medical marijuana. And it allows city and county governments to ban dispensaries within their boundaries, but they must allow individual caregivers who are authorized to provide medical marijuana to their clients.

These are reasonable rules that, as we have said before, attempt to bring some order to the chaotic system of medical marijuana outlets that has developed in less than a year.

Certainly, not everything in the legislation is perfect, and some changes will undoubtedly need to be made after the law is implemented.

But we congratulate the Legislature — members of both parties who supported the measure — for working hard through much of this year’s session to develop a law that recognizes the public demand for medical marijuana under a measure voters approved a decade ago, but also acknowledges the need for regulation in how that demand is met.


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